My knowledge of the Canary Islands is limited to what I’ve heard about rowdy hen parties and British beach getaways. But Julie Cliffe-Jones, along with her husband Mike, have created a website that highlights the charms of Lanzarote, which has been changing its image over the years. Here’s her Val Luxe take on her home.Photo by jbarcena, Flickr Creative Commons
We fell in love with Lanzarote on our first visit, and the island still amazes me after more than a decade of living here. To get yourself oriented, note that while Spanish is the official language, the Canary Islands are closer to Africa than Europe, about 71 miles from the coast of the Morocco/Western Sahara border. It was the first stop for sailors heading from the Mediterranean and the last port of call before crossing the Atlantic.
Unlike some of the other islands in the archipelago, the island has few monstrous high-rises, due in part to local artist César Manrique. Starting in the 1970s, he worked with the authorities to convince developers to concentrate on easy-on-eye, low-rise buildings that are on the island today. By law, all homes are painted white, with green or blue shutters.
The effect may be uniform but it’s also upscale, and Lanzarote holidays are more about quality than quantity. The days of timeshares and British bars offering all day sports have faded away, with wine bars, fine dining and eco-friendly attractions taking their place.Photo by exfordy, Flickr Creative Commons
Lanzarote hase an average of 300 days of sunshine, with daytime temperatures that range between 68 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit (20 – 30 degrees Celsius). Despite its African locale, the island doesn’t get too hot, due to the constant trade winds and we have hardly a drop of rain.
With that kind of climate, Lanzarote has great conditions for outdoor sports all year round. Through the winter months, large groups of cyclists travel from Europe to continue training on our roads rather than indoors during the cold weather. Lanzarote’s Ironman event is considered one of the world’s toughest, and attracts close to 2,000 triathletes each May. The island is also becoming popular with walkers; there are many paths and dirt tracks that allow you to discover some stunning viewpoints.Photo by big-ashb, Flickr Creative Commons
César Manrique Attractions
Because the island is volcanic, it has more of a barren beauty than a tropical appeal. To fully appreciate it, you need to visit some of the visitor attractions, many created and enhanced by Manrique.
The Fire Mountains at the Timanfaya National Park will teach you about the six years of eruptions – 1730 to 1736 – which changed Lanzarote forever. The lava fields are moon-like in appearance, a feature that Manrique highlighted when he created a touring route through the park. (He’s also responsible for the Devils Diner, a restaurant atop a volcano where you can watch your food being cooked from the heat below).
One of Manrique’s best-known attractions is Jameos de Agua, a collapsed lava tube that he turned into a concert venue, auditorium and gardens that contain a swimming pool reserved for the King of Spain. Far more egalitarian: The Cactus Garden. This botanical garden has 10,000 types of cactus, arranged architecturally on a former volcanic ash quarry. To learn about César Manrique, visit the Foundation established in his name, located at his old home built around volcanic bubbles in Tahiche.
The best way to see enjoy the island’s volcanic sites is to rent a car. Fuel on Lanzarote costs less than it does in mainland Europe, and there are fantastic view points and fabulous restaurants away from more-crowded towns.
You could never tire of exploring the beaches in Lanzarote, as there are over 100 of them. On the island’s sheltered east coast, the resorts offer golden sand and crystal clear water. The west coast provides an adrenalin rush for surfers, earning comparisons to Hawaii.Photo by s1ng0, Flickr Creative Commons
There are three main tourist resorts in Lanzarote. The original was Puerto del Carmen, which has 6km of beaches stretching along the coastline. It’s still considered the liveliest of the resorts in terms of nightlife, with clubs that stay open late, as bars and restaurants. The second resort to be developed was Costa Teguise, famous for the first golf course on the island as well as windsurfing on Playa Las Cucharas.
And finally, Playa Blanca was the last to be constructed. This tiny fishing village now boasts five star hotels, a plethora of villa accommodation and the fabulous Marina Rubicó (worthy too of a mention is the marina at Puerto Calero which has two hotels and private accommodation together with designer label shopping and a fabulous range of restaurants).
Why is shopping so popular here? The Canary Islands have 7% VAT and enjoy duty-free status, making it a popular place to pick up luxury goods and alcohol.
As befits its status as a European getaway, the Canary Islands have quite a few topless and nude beaches. Lanzarote has its very own naturist village, so if you fancy an all over tan head for Charco del Palo.
There are hundreds of places to eat in each resort. Overall, you’ll find lots of Spanish cuisine with typical Canarian restaurants and tapas bars, as well as an extensive list of Chinese, Indian, Italian & Mexican restaurants. Obviously there’s quite a few British & Irish bars.Photo by Sylvaine Moss, Flickr Creative Commons
Personally I would opt for self catering or bed & breakfast accommodation, so that you can enjoy eating out and experience some of our local cuisine. One traditional dish is papas arrugadas, potatoes grown on the island, which are served with red and green mojo, sauces made with garlic, oil and herbs.
Fresh fish is available all over the island. For the best fish, visit one of the seaside villages such as El Golfo, which is full of restaurants offering paella, shellfish and seafood.
Many local restaurants offer a menu del día, a three-course meal that includes a drink. These can provide fantastic values, and range in price from €6 – €15 per person. It’s a great way to try the Canarian cuisine.
Three different restaurants I would recommend to try during a visit to the island are:
Casa Roja in the old harbour of Puerto del Carmen. This seafood restaurant has the location, service and fabulous food.
Grillen Bar & Grill in Tinajo. Less than a year old, this restaurant has already earned its reputation with a constantly changing menu featuring local produce.
Restaurante Emmax on the seafront in Playa Honda. Delicious Italian food with an Asian influence.
This post was brought to you by Directline Holidays, a booking website that offers Canary Island vacations.